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Did the govt threaten to stop supply of petroleum if the PM’s photo is not displayed in petrol pumps?

On 24th August 2018, The Hindu published a report that state-owned oil marketing companies (OMCs) have issued a verbal instruction to Petrol Pump operators to display a picture of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at their retail outlets and that this instruction has triggered protests from dealers of the petrol pump. The report also claims that OMCs have threatened to block supply to those outlets who refuse to display picture or PM. This was informed by S.S. Gogi, president, Consortium of Indian Petroleum Dealers (CIPD) to The Hindu. This report was subsequently picked up by some other media outlets, all of them using the Hindu report as their source.

Incidentally, The Hindu failed to carry any response from either petroleum ministry or any of the OMCs regarding the issue.

The Hindu’s assertions were based on the statements of on SS Gogi (Shamsher Singh Gogi) who claims to be the President of Consortium of Indian Petroleum Dealers.

However, when one looks closely, an entirely different story that was innocuously missed by The Hindu emerges. When searched on the Social Media site, Twitter, one stumbles upon the Twitter handle of SS Gogi. In his page, he has mentioned that he is the General Secretary of Haryana Pradesh Congress.

That on 24th August 2018, he shared a clipping of the same news article, presumably from The Hindu confirms that he is the same SS Gogoi who made these assertions to The Hindu.

He has made wild assertions like equating RSS to Taliban on his Twitter timeline as well.

One has to question the authenticity of the news published by The Hindu considering that it is rather odd that the news outlet would fail to mention that the one making such assertions is politically affiliated to the Congress party.

The Print spoke to an IOCL official on the issue, and the official denied any move to cut off supplies. “No OMC has threatened to choke supply as the dealers are alleging. Also, the fact that many are saying that the petrol pumps are being used to promote Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s photographs is incorrect. What we are doing is promoting the schemes. Now many of the schemes have been initiated by this government and therefore have his photograph. So, while promoting the schemes, his photograph automatically comes up. There is nothing more to it,” said the official.

Oil Marketing companies IOCL, HPCL and BPCL are owned by Government of India, and the premise of petrol pumps of such OMCs have been used to display hoardings, posters etc promoting various government schemes in the past also. And some of these promotional materials contain an image of Modi.

The claim of threatening to block the supply of fuel to those pumps who refuse to display image of the Prime Minister seems far-fetched at best, and malicious at worst. Selling petroleum products is the business of the OMCs, and it is unlikely that they would stop the supply of petroleum products to retail outlets for such a trivial reason. That will happen only because of some serious breach of contract, like adulteration, tampering with the pump etc. It is also worthy to note, that petrol pumps running dry would cause far greater damage to any government in power compared to the PM’s photograph not being displayed. Hence, it seems outlandish for any government to issue such a self-defeating order.

What casts greater aspersions at the report by the Hindu, aside from the fact that their source is a Congressman who might have the motivation to weave fiction against the incumbent government, is that the order purportedly came in the form of a “verbal order” by some “field officer”. One wonders if such a politically damaging instruction would simply be handed out to field officers to be verbally communicated to petrol pumps.

Neither The Hindu report nor any of the subsequent reports quote any other source other than the Himachal Pradesh Congress President. That further raises doubts about the entire affair.

There are several associations of petrol pump dealers in India. And it seems only one among them, Consortium of Indian Petroleum Dealers, which is incidentally headed by a Congress party leader, has a problem with display of such advertisement at petrol pumps and in the 3 days that this news has been in circulation, nobody, other than the consortium headed by Himachal Pradesh Congress President has raised a stink over this alleged diktat.

In all, this report by The Hindu certainly raises serious suspicions over the veracity and authenticity of the purported diktat by the Modi led government.

We also reached out to HPCL for their comment, this article will be updated when the response is received.

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Raju Das
Corporate Dropout, Freelance Translator

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